Monday, September 8, 2014

The Gray Notebook by Joseph Pla

In the café Tomas Gallart says “Bankers are gentlemen who lend you an umbrella when the sun shines. When it rains, don’t count on their help.”

Coromina has been closely following the news from the Russian Revolution in the dailies and the incessant journalistic commentary on the nature of socialism. He declares that Gallart is right, that the capitalist system is simultaneously chaotic, disorderly, irrational, capricious, wasteful and stingy. Anyone who needs a loan from the banks to pursue an opportunity, however good it might be, is going to be tortured dreadfully.

“What Coromina just said,” Gori excitedly remarks, “is literally, axiomatically, and undeniably true. The capitalist system is disorderly, irrational and chaotic. Irrational is the exact word.  And because it is entirely capricious, it is painful, cruel and sad. Yes, Coromina is absolutely right. The capitalist system is everything he said and a lot worse than that. We could spend all night listening to its drawbacks. But if you don’t mind, I want to ask one question: Do you, after everything we’ve said and everything we could go on to say, do you argue that we need to replace this system with another system that is developed a priori?”

“Sometimes I think so, yes.”

“You do? Good God! I beg to disagree. You really think that the conclusion to draw from all the failings of capitalism we’ve just run through – failings that are undeniable – is that the system ought to be replaced? I think, on the contrary, what we’ve demonstrated is that it is absolutely necessary to defend and sustain it on every front. Capitalism is irrational, chaotic, incomprehensible, disorderly, capricious, unjust, painful, sad, and ridiculous…just like nature and life. A banker will only listen to you, an intelligent, energetic, respectable man, if you are going to earn him money.  Then he goes and opens his vaults to the gentleman who lives three doors up the street and is a total idiot. Nature has given me this awful nose when it could have given me a perfect specimen. The fellow who lives like a beggar and never washes is now rich, having inherited a fortune he doesn’t know how to handle. We could have all been endowed with strong, resistant, perfect spleens but instead have to make do with spleens that are worn out already.”

“So what do you conclude from all this?”

“I conclude that nature, life, and capitalism all flow from the same source. Capitalism was born from human life for the same reasons that grass grows from the earth in the springtime. That it is born and flourishes naturally doesn’t make it moral or immoral. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about nature. Nature is pure cosmography, total indifference. Nothing has a transcendental purpose. At most, this natural drive and growth are symptoms of undoubted biological vitality, a natural power drive.”

“A vitality that creates such injustice, that is so repulsive, loathsome, intolerable-“

“Entirely agreed. But then I have never seen nature attempt to be just. Has anyone? It would be perfectly just for nature to endow me with an elegant, graceful, enticing nose, given my romantic my romantic disposition, yet look at the deplorable schnozzle I was landed with. Wouldn’t you think it ridiculous if I tried to replace the nature we have with one that was more just, a nature that supplied perfect Greek noses and strong sturdy spleens impervious to alcohol? You’d think it plain crazy. You are up in arms at the wickedness of capitalism and want to replace it, want to kill its biological character, its spontaneous growth and inner drive. You want to replace it with a regime that is rational, just, orderly, and satisfactory from the perspective of routine everyday morality. You believe that by simply replacing a real, however cruel, with an artificial, albeit hypothetically perfect one, you will improve the lot of mankind. I doubt it! I don’t believe it! The French like to say the best is the enemy of the good. My opinion is that exchanging a real albeit irrational system for this other one, in spite of the proposed system’s theoretically perfection, will lead to something infinitely worse, much more painful and intractable and with many fewer opportunities.”

“You are a hardened conservative, says Coromina, on edge, “with no imagination.”

“And you are a child in diapers,” Gori retorts, tipping two shots of firewater into his coffee.


  1. Although Srta V. is so dark, she is very romantic. I never know what to do in the company of romantic individuals: whether to laugh or cry. But I always encounter the same problem how to bring it to fruition: the young ladies are impenetrable, insoluble, impossible, unattainable, unapproachable, untouchable, intangible, and irreducible. Exhaustion kills enchantment and the time comes when you doubt whether they really exist…

  2. Sensuality makes young people miserable. It’s a bad business.

    Sometimes I think of the number of hours I’ve wasted thinking about fornicating with dreamy, imaginary women. Nevertheless, you might perhaps draw a single conclusion in this respect: those hours would probably been even more wasted if I’d actually spent them fornicating with real, tangible young women.

    When one is young, sensuality is inhuman, insoluble, and unbelievably grotesque.

  3. In the café Frigola says “When a man is driven by sex, he becomes purely unconscious, a being driven by bind, unknown forces. An out-and -out moron. A man in that state stands out a mile because his lack of balance has repercussions on everything else he does. If the male mind devoted as such space to woman as you imagine, society would cease to function. Trains would never make it to Flaca.”

    “Well, we’d face that scenario if marriage hadn’t been proposed with an iron hand.”

    “I don’t believe marriage is the only reason for he existence of restraint and a certain morality. I believe moderation in terms of sensuality has undeniably concrete, physical causes. They are the same levers that lead to frugality, hygiene, caution and measure in life. Or need to feel comfortable is the root cause.”

    People who marry very young enter the matrimonial state for reasons of money, blindness.

  4. Nature is a powerful force. Later on, things become clearer. Many people marry; however, if they had a chance to divorce one day, most would be scandalized. But I mean to discuss something else. The lack of awareness I just mentioned, that moment of unawareness and emotional union shapes character traits that then last a lifetime. I never met a bachelor who was intrinsically stupid. Manic perhaps, but not stupid. Marriage should be the roundabout way to attain two other forms of love: the love between parents and children and the love between brother and sister, which is where marriages finish up when the fire goes out. The male ideal – in terms of feeling- should be an imaginary sister.

  5. …I accompany Srta. V. for a while. In the gray twilight I see her large, glinting black eyes – with slightly red-rimmed eyelids. Several aperitifs. The void deepens. Total indifference – a kind of vegetative melancholy. Years ago I’d have expected so much from today!

    Man is permanently in a state of sin. (Readers, please don’t rush to any hasty conclusions.) One either accepts this as a fact – in my opinion- or pretends to be pure. Nonetheless, it is impossible to throw off sin. Likewise injustice, which perhaps can be equally dangerous. If one attempts to throw off sin, two things can happen: Either one fails due to a huge burden of sin or because one thinks one has thrown off sin, when one hasn’t, so it’s a lie, or one becomes a fake, a hypocrite, capable of doing the direst deed in the name of simulated purity. If one thinks of oneself as an assiduous, dastardly sinner, one can at least aspire to a level of humility and discretion I hope I never abandon this belief in the course of my life. It’s my only hope.